Alabama women’s tennis poised to take the next step

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Alabama women’s tennis poised to take the next step

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Cole Archer, Contributing Writer

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Experience grants many gifts in life. Experience can lead to a better job, a bigger paycheck or a wiser mind. The Alabama women’s tennis team is counting on experience to lead to more wins.

Coming off a 15-15 season, several of the team’s members believe it is heading in the right direction, and with a squad that has five juniors and no freshman, they see no reason why this upcoming season can’t yield more victories.

Coach Jenny Mainz is confident that a team boasting four transfer players will know how to kick into full gear after the long weeks of practice and cross-country flights for preseason play along the West Coast.

When given a team to coach that already possessed great mental intangibles such as leadership and maturity, the offseason point of emphasis was clear: go harder.

“We have gotten stronger,” Mainz said. “We have gotten fitter. We have gotten more match-ready and more battle-tested. We have added things to their games. We are getting more versatile, and we are just a really poised team.”

The team opens its season on Jan. 20 with a home match against the UAB Blazers.

While there is room for excitement for a season opener with an in-state competitor, all eyes are on how Alabama can improve in SEC play this season, as the team went just 2-11 in conference play last season. How the veteran players balance a consistent approach to all opponents versus an extra emphasis on SEC matches will be something to look out for as the season begins. However, it is something the team doesn’t seem to be worried about.

“I think we’re better prepared for what the SEC looks like,” junior Jacqueline Pelletier said. “Out of the 14 teams, over half of them were in the top 25, so we know what we are up against, and we are better prepared to face it.”

Those matches will be tough for the Crimson Tide, as the SEC is one the strongest conferences in women’s tennis, hosting the two top-ranked players in the country. The Crimson Tide looks to break into the top 25 and capitalize on such a strong conference that makes up nearly half the team’s schedule. Junior Alba Cortina Pou saw 2018’s struggle with SEC matchups and road games as a beacon of hope and an opportunity to grow in 2019.

“With experiences from last year, we know how to handle certain situations when they return, and everyone is looking a lot more confident,” sophomore Cortina Pou said. “We don’t care who we play against. The next match is the most important for us. We just want to improve from now until the end of the season.”

Mainz leads a disciplined group that knows it isn’t satisfied with last year’s play. The improvements the team has made in practice couples well with Mainz’s underdog mentality for the unranked Crimson Tide to approach the season with the same ambition they always do, both on and off the court.

“You always have to prove yourself,” Mainz said. “Whether you won a national championship and had a banner season or had a less favorable season, it’s over. It’s always a new start. It’s 0-0. You have to earn it, and you have to prove yourself as a coach, as a player and as a team. I like having my back against the wall. I’m a fighter. I always have been.”